By Aram Tolegian Staff Writer
Try telling Damien High School things could have been worse as the Spartans prepare for the first round of the CIF-SS Inland Division football playoffs and you’re likely to get a rude reception. Damien drew a road game against No. 2-seeded Vista Murrieta, which is technically 5-5, but 10-0 on the field. Vista Murrieta had to forfeit five wins earlier this season. Still, the Spartans avoided top-seeded Corona Centennial (9-1) and No. 3 seed Upland (10-0). (To continue click thread)
But Damien coach Greg Gano doesn’t think his team got off easy.
“They’ve got some people over there,” Gano said of Vista Murrieta. “One kid is going to Oregon. Another kid is going to any place he wants to. They’ve got a good team. I don’t think we match up, but we’re going to give them heck. I’m not saying we can’t play with them because I think we have just as much speed as they do.”
Damien finished 7-3 and third in the Sierra League. The Spartans needed a win over Ayala on Thursday to clinch third place in league. Given how the Sierra League stacks up to the rest of the Inland Division, its third-place team is usually given a very difficult task in the first round.
“I don’t think we were the worst third-place team (in the division),” Gano said. “It is what it is. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t cry. We finished third so we knew we’d get thrown to somebody.”
No matter how Damien does on Friday, the Spartans showed significant improvement
compared to last season. Damien won one more game in the regular season than it did last year, turned the tables on a JSerra team that routed the Spartans 42-7 last year and gave Bishop Amat a much tougher game.
Just how far all that improvement takes the Spartans in the Inland playoffs remains to be seen. Starting a sophomore quarterback on the road will not make things easy.
“We have to get some breaks and we have to really play four quarters as good as we have all year,” Gano said. “We were within one coaching mistake of being where Chino Hills is (playing Rancho Cucamonga). But you finish second and you get Rancho, what is that? Rancho is a very good team.”
Chargers getting healthy
Charter Oak quarterback Travis Santiago’s sprained ankle continues to improve and Chargers coach Lou Farrar said there’s no doubt the senior standout will play Friday against Santiago of Corona.
Santiago sprained his ankle last week in a fluke accident before practice, but was able to play in the Chargers’ 38-7 win over Chino Hills in the Sierra League championship game.
Santiago had limited movement against Chino Hills and was in considerable pain after the game, but Farrar expects him to have more mobility on Friday.
“He’s much improved,” Farrar said. “I saw him a little bit at our first film meeting (Monday) at lunch and he was walking without any crutches. He still has to go to treatment this week, but his coloration is a lot better.”
Chargers running back Kurt Scoby, who is also nursing a sprained ankle, is improving as well. Scoby played well Thursday against Chino Hills and is nearing a return to full strength.
Charter Oak definitely needs to have all hands on deck this week when it seeks its first Inland Division playoff win. Charter Oak has never been in such a division, so simply winning a playoff game against a much larger school would be a feather in the program’s cap.
A good sign for the Chargers is that Chino Hills beat Santiago in Week 2 of the season, and the Chargers beat Chino Hills last week. But after seeing film of Santiago, Farrar says that comparative score means little.
“It’s too early in the season,” Farrar said. “You’re talking the difference between Week 2 and Week 11. So much can happen in that time.”
“And they didn’t have their running back and linebacker in that game (against Chino Hills). You have to throw out the early games and just concentrate on what they did later in the season.”